Labels? We don’t need no stinkin’ labels.

The other day a fellow writer and good friend of mine posted a blog in which he mentioned that he did not normally read books with a woman protagonist. This acknowledgement of exclusion, thrown out casually, as though accepted by most, if not all, men, shocked me a little. The blog post came a few weeks after another good friend, a male friend, used the term women’s fiction to describe one of my works.
There was a period in the ‘60’s when I read only books written by women. There were, then as now, many brilliant women writers, so it was certainly no hardship to find wonderful, entertaining, enlightening books, but it quickly became apparent to me that I had more in common with many male writers than I did with many women writers. In other words, the gender of the author or of the protagonist was not a good way to choose books that I would enjoy reading.
I have found this to be true in life as well as in fiction. Friends are best chosen based on factors other than gender. Common interests, shared faith or culture or a willingness to allow me to glimpse a different way of life, a sense of humor, intellect, integrity, and a touch of craziness–these are the qualities I look for in friends. Coincidentally, they are also what I look for in an author. Of course an author must also be able to weave an entire world with nothing but ink and paper and do so in a way that allows me to fall into her book and makes me sad when I read the last page.
So, let me be clear. There’s no such thing as women’s fiction. I don’t give a rat’s bald ass how agents or publishers pigeon-hole books. There no such thing as men’s fiction either. Men do not write exclusively for other men. Women do not write exclusively for other women. Langston Hughes didn’t write black poetry. He wrote poetry. Jody Picoult does not write women’s fiction. She writes fiction. That’s a period at the end of those sentence.
Labels separate us, divide us into nice, neat little cogs. Life is messy and complicated. Nothing is neat or clean or easily labeled.  We all have more commonalities than we have differences.  The sooner we figure that out, the happier we are.
As for the two men mentioned in the first paragraph, well, this entire rant is also a good example of why I love hanging around with both men and women. Friends make offhand comments that send our minds off on tangents that stretch and expand our view of the world. We play off of one another, and in doing so, become richer, better people. So thanks, G and C for making my world a little more clear. I hope to God, I do the same for you on occasion.


About Author and Speaker Pamela Foster

Pamela Foster is a speaker and author. Her first book, Redneck Goddess, is available at local bookstores and on Amazon. Her second book, Bigfoot Blues, will be available in August 2012.
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4 Responses to Labels? We don’t need no stinkin’ labels.

  1. Very well said! I agree. We are writers. We write (period). No one should label us or our works, since we write about many aspects of life, and yet the publishing world does like its little boxes 😉 Conforming to a ‘genre’ is perhaps the most difficult restriction on our writing too, from my point of view. Also, in my opinion, such limits should not be placed on any creative process. There should be just Fiction and Non Fiction, and let the prospective reader actually READ the description of the book to see if it is for them or not 🙂 I don’t think that will happen anytime soon, though, so I guess we just keep creating and then trying to fit the genre to the book when it is written as best we can 🙂 See you this evening xox

  2. gilmiller says:

    I have no shame. I’m the “G” referred to in this post, and I see no reason to hide what I said. Especially since it’s on my blog.

    To be honest, I started really thinking about it after I wrote that post, and I’ve read more novels with female protagonists than I realized. And once I got into them, I had no problem at all relating to them. Why? Because they’re HUMAN BEINGS. Yes, men and women think differently on a great many subjects. But at base, we’re still the same. We don’t like seeing a murder victim. We don’t like people taking advantage of us. The list can go on and on.

    When I read about Katniss Everdeen, it didn’t matter that she was a young girl. She was still facing death and the same kinds of moral dilemmas a lot of other protagonists face. I didn’t care that she was a young girl facing these things. I just cared that she was a character I wanted to see succeed.

    And I didn’t mean to infer that female protagonists were inferior in any way (in case anyone saw it that way). I was just saying I’ve probably not given them the chance I should have in the past. I doubt I’ll ever try to write one, though, simply because I’m not sure my writing is up to doing one justice.

    • See, this is why we’re friends. A good free exchange of ideas and we both thought a little deeper about something that started as a vague idea and is now more clear in both our minds.
      And I think the reason your blog post stuck in my head is that you ARE so honestly respectful of women and of course, because you make writing look effortless and your posts are like a casual chat with a friend.
      See you Tuesday.

  3. I guess that will teach Gil a lesson. The nerve of that guy.

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